Friday, February 20, 2009

Hi all,
taking a break from my blogworld since I expect to be busy for the next few weeks.Daughter no.2 and my son are expected to be in India in the next couple of weeks and so my time is to be devoted to every moment with my children and grandchildren.And I also have a confession to make. Without any expectation of inputs from you on my posts I am just going to read and enjoy each one of your writings.So i'll be in touch through my comments on your posts.Enjoy the good weather that spring brings with it.The scorching summer is bound to transform me into a sleepy crocodile and may be I'll post something then if my mind and body support me.So goodbye for now.See you soon.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Scientific application?

We recently had a debate in college on “the study of science leads to better career opportunities” and our students spoke for and against the motion. The usual arguments about the tried and tested professions of doctors and engineers needing a science background, and Mathematics and Statistics having entered every field of importance the view that the study of science was important for a fruitful career was endorsed by many. I have been a science student all along and it is but natural that I too support this view. Even otherwise plumbing, masonry, a technician in the pathological lab all need to know basic science even if they discontinue at a later stage. So even if one does not aspire to become an astronaut knowledge of basic science is of help in any career. The scientific temperament of logically analyzing a situation and managerial skills of making maximum use of available resources are useful not only for a career but also to run a family. But why then is the study of science taking a back seat and why do we not have good science teachers any more? The motivation to study science is diminishing by the day and it pains me to see science being studied and taught in the most unscientific manner in our schools and colleges.

As a student of class six I was excited when I verified the upward thrust of air pressure through a simple experiment. I had the time to take a cigarette tin, punch a single hole on top and several hole in the bottom, fill it with water and demonstrate to my younger sister that blocking the hole on top prevents water from flowing out from the bottom holes. I remember learning the Botanical names of ladies finger and sweet potato and using them to baffle my mother when I came home on vacation. We had fun at the expense of our friend, a simpleton, by giving her an unidentified plant material and telling her that it was called Roadorum sidorum which literally meant road side in Tamil and she was naïve enough to believe us. During my preparation for my M. Sc. Exams I was so much into it that my husband knew the answers to the oft discussed topics and my son who was in standard two was able to draw the chemical structure of Gibberalin, a plant growth hormone, of course without understanding it. Today we have students who have to be literally coaxed or threatened to contribute to the science day celebrations that are going on in our college.

“We’re having a seminar on Global Warming” I’d announce “I’ll be taking attendance after that. I want each one of you to be there.”

Or, “How many of you have given your names for the science quiz? If I see you contributing towards the program in some way or other I’ll sign your record work. Those who don’t can submit your record work without my signature in the examination.”

I am not happy doing this but this is the only way to get students to participate. Twenty years have gone by since I completed my post graduation and students have changed their attitude and approach beyond recognition. Of course it is unfortunate that the best and the next best group have left Jharkhand for places like Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore and Maharashtra. Even middle class families are paying through their nose to see to it that their wards get good education. A career for their children is a must these days and there is nothing wrong in it. Entrance exams are a nightmare and a sixteen year old kid cannot afford to enjoy the process of learning by experimentation the way I did. She/he has to attend coaching classes, complete assignments that he doesn’t even have time to deliberate upon and unless I threaten them of dire consequences my final year students would prefer to attend computer classes or MBA coaching centers and prepare for competitive exams rather than sit through a science seminar on ‘Global warming’. And do I have the right to find fault with them? They may not have gone outside Jamshedpur to study but they do want a good career for themselves like anyone else. The day is not far off when students would tell me to my face that they have better things to do and may complain to the student union that I was trying to threaten them, never mind what my intentions were. I think I must learn to retreat while there is time. Or we may soon have the brothers shouting slogans against teachers like me.

Under the circumstances is it any wonder that a career that fetches a good pay packet is the only career that interests students? The good ones will not work as teachers in private school so those that come from school do not have a strong base. Entrance exams are a series of ticks and crosses and in depth studies are outmoded.

A group of three students would attend only practical classes and skip theory. They were brilliant in their own way. I asked them how they would tackle final year portions in applied biology, genetics etc. Pat came the reply-

“We’ve covered all that in plus two and we have the notes”

The three not only passed out with a first division but also did their MBA from one of the best institutes in the country. It was then that I realized that they had set their priorities and worked towards it. The complex theories of inheritance do not interest since they were not keen on research work! I was perhaps able to enjoy an in depth study of my subject because I already had a comfortable job and did not have to answer entrance exams.

So I come back to the topic of my debate. A successful career needs an analytical mind and the right attitude. If science lays claim to these qualities – so be it. But I am afraid that these cannot be claimed by science alone. Diligence is required in all fields and proper application of knowledge is the key to success whether one is an officer in the bank, a professionally qualified person or a house maid/keeper.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Awards and More Awards!

I had been given this award by Renu long back but something or the other kept cropping up and i could acknowledge it only now. thank you Renu and I see you've uploaded your photograph so I seem to know you better now.This award is awarded for "acknowledging the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day."

It is wonderful to be recognized in such a manner and what can I say in return?I am indeed overwhelmed and touched.

Now to more awards-

I have been awarded by oorjas not once or twice but thrice. That was wonderful and thank you so much for it oorjas. And congratulations to you too. to be awarded thrice within 2 months of starting your blog speaks volumes of your writing skills and you do write well. my best wishes for many more to come your way.

I pass on these award to all my wonderful readers who have pampered and patronized me. They've shown concern when I was ill and felt frustrated when I did not get my dues. My dear readers, these awards actually belong to each one of you. After all where would I be were it not for you?Please claim what is rightfully your's.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A story that impressed me

This is a rough translation of an interesting story I read in a Tamil magazine a few years back. It must have impressed me a lot for me to remember it even now.

An old man had let out a part of his house in the suburbs of Chennai to a middle aged couple with a teen aged son. He had a son who was well settled, leading a busy life, living in a posh upper class locality of Central Chennai. It was evident to the tenants that the relationship between the old man and his son was cordial but rather aloof and the old man never seemed very comfortable during the son’s monthly visits which were regular but formal affairs. The daughter in law and his only grand daughter also accompanied the son more out of a sense of duty than genuine affection. The old man put down his son’s behavior to the formative years the son spent in boarding schools and hostels since he himself had a transferable job and was very often posted to areas that lacked good schools.

“I catered to his physical requirements but never to his emotional ones. He is doing the same to me. He was close to his mother but unfortunately she died early and he never bonded with me the way he could have. But he is a good boy and I have no complaints.” He’d often say. He’d go on to add that the tenant and his family were as good as his own. Their 14 year old son called him ‘thatha’ meaning grandpa and often went to him for help with his home work assignments. He dined with them on festive occasions, remembered their birthdays and anniversary and asked after their extended family who in turn had a kind word for him whenever they visited.

One day the old man suffers a stroke and has to be hospitalized. The couple who had by now grown very attached to him tried to contact his son who was holidaying abroad and took care of him till his arrival. The son arrived quickly enough and was very grateful to the couple for their help. He took charge of the situation and shifted the old man to a hospital near his house and arranged for an attendant to look after him.

The tenants continue with their busy lives when their son wonders aloud as to how ‘thatha’ may be faring. It is then that they realize that a week had gone by and they had not visited him in hospital. The hospital was far off but the trio undertake a tedious trip by local train to the nearest station and hire a taxi from there to the hospital. They feel relieved that his condition was stable when their son goes close enough to hear the old man mumble something.

“I have a table made of Burma teak. It is a spacious one and you would use it as your study table as a child. I got it specially made for you when you started school. The tenant’s son uses it these days. They are a cunning lot and may claim it to be theirs. You don’t get such good furniture these days and a table of that size would cost a fortune even if one makes it with some ordinary wood let alone teak wood. You must take time to go and fetch it for your daughter..……..”

The tenants are shocked. The old man continued to mumble something but it did not matter any more. They return even without waking the old man despite their son’s protests.

This story set me thinking. Parenting is often described as sacrifice. It is supposed be a forgiving experience. One tends to overlook the flaws of children and in spite of irresponsible behavior from them one always tries to defend them. But don’t we owe some kind of appreciation to those who stand by us in our time of need? Can we afford to be blind to the fact that neighbors who pitch in and help are not bound to do so but they do it out of genuine concern? In this story for instance it was alright for the old man to want to give the table to his grandkid. But was it necessary to imply that the couple were cunning and had an ulterior motive in taking care of him? With more and more children leaving ageing parents to deal with their old age is it not important for us to change our attitude?